|Game 15: April 20, 2007|
|Yankees||6||H: Scott Proctor (3)
BS, L: Mariano Rivera (2, 1-2)
|8-7, 1 game losing streak
2-2-1 series record
|Red Sox||7||W: Kyle Snyder (1-0)
S: Hideki Okajima (1)
|10-5, 3 game winning streak
3-1-1 series record
|Highlights: So it begins. The Red Sox donned green jerseys to honor Arnold “Red” Auerbach. There have been 60 finals for professional basketball and the Celtics have won 16 titles, or 26.67% of the time. The Yankees have won 26 championships in 102 series for a success rate of a little over 25%. Bob Cousy, who had behind-the-backed the first pitch of the game, visited the broadcast booth in the third. For someone who claimed he didn’t like to talk to people, he revealed that he didn’t think Rick Pitino was a good pro coach and thought the Celtics should draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. The traitorous Doug Mientkiewicz dared show his face in pinstripes at Fenway since his underhanded... oh, wait. He was At Fenway as a Royal in 2006. It’s not only ESPN that hypes Yankee players; Jerry Remy showed side-by-side video of Robinson Cano and Rob Carew in the sixth. Sure, and in a certain light at an obscure angle I look like Gong Li.|
Trumpeter and Berklee professor Toru “Tiger” Okoshi led a kumi-daiko (modern taiko drum troupe) in his arrangement of the national anthem to kick off the first series against the Yankees for the 2007 series. Fittingly, taiko were used to rally and coordinate troops in times of battle. When you hear taiko live, you can feel the sound waves move your internal organs, as if a spirit were possessing your body.
Taiko were also a part of daily life, alerting villagers about weather or when hunting parties were about to depart. The drum became was so much of the pulse of daily, essential activities that it became associated with divinity. This association evolved into a tradition in which only designated holy men in Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples were allowed to play taiko. Since the advent of kumi-daiko, however, anyone with the dedication and desire can join a taiko group.
Perhaps some sort of consecrated power has to be invoked to dissolve whatever unholy pact Alex Rodriguez entered into this season, and I’m not referring to profane Scott Boras-brokered contract. Some sort of Faustian rider must have been taken effect this April because what else could account for Rodriguez’s inhuman performance thus far?
Curt Schilling should look into some sort of devilish arrangement himself. Although he lasted seven innings, the aging pitcher surrendered 8 hits, 5 earned runs, and 2 home runs, both to Rodriguez in back-to-back innings. Notably, Schilling’s ground outs equaled his fly outs with eight apiece and he struck out five. Many of those fly outs weren’t puny fly balls to the shallow outfield, but rather were solidly struck and caught on the warning track. Perhaps the taiko pleased the wind gods.
Opposing pitcher Andy Pettitte started in a place he knew so well, a place where the loyal Yankee lefty wouldn’t ever start in the top of the inning. Pettitte was pulled in the seventh; he had allowed consecutive singles to Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp but struck out pinch hitter Wily Mo Peña. He left with the score 5-2, a seemingly safe margin. Scott Proctor finished off the seventh, dismantling a two-on, one-out scoring opportunity in six pitches to Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis.
But the home team did not sit idly by in this key game. Two players whose effectiveness has been called into question broke out, no longer playing tight as a drumskin. A previously dormant Jason Varitek launched a two-run, right-handed homer to the opposite field in the fourth and was pivotal in the eighth inning rally. Another slow-starter, Crisp, would also catch fire, perhaps spurred by his fifth-inning somersault over the bullpen wall while pursuing Rodriguez’s home run.
Much was made of Mariano Rivera’s meltdown in the eighth, but some of the blame should also be shouldered by Mike Myers and Luis Vizcaino. The former allowed a deep double to David Ortiz to lead off the inning while the latter walked Manny Ramirez and gave up an RBI single to Mike Lowell. With one out and runners at the corners, however, Rivera was unable to staunch the bleeding. Varitek singled to right to plate Ramirez. Next Crisp tripled on the first pitch he saw, sprinting madly to the hot corner while the ball shimmied down the first base line all the way to the curve in the right field wall.
Alex Cora, who never seems to accumulate rust, blooped a single over the infield just high and deep enough for Crisp to score the go-ahead run. Cora did, however, overshoot the keystone sack and was swiped out by Cano, who deftly played Wil Nieves’s misfire into an out.
Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable this game since he had been required in the series in Toronto. Surprisingly and hearteningly, Terry Francona did not automatically opt for his more veteran bullpen staff members. Instead, he summoned the little-known and hardly tested Hideki Okajima, whom the team calls “Oki.” Okajimer, as Remy calls him, was shocked into the major leagues thanks to seeing the first pitch he ever let fly turn into a John Buck homer. In the five innings he’s pitched since then the southpaw had not allowed a run to score, walked one, and struck out six.
Okajima induced a ground out from Derek Jeter to open the frame. The walk by Bobby Abreu could have well been a strikeout if someone other than Randy Marsh was judging the strike zone last night. Rodriguez managed contact but softly lined to Cora’s glove for the second out. For the final out, Okajima struck out Kevin Thompson. While it wasn’t a dominant performance in the Papelbon vein, Okajima’s save embodied the spirit of the game: inspired contributions from unexpected sources.